Patriots vs. Falcons: Predicting Final Score and Top Fantasy Stars
Two of the top teams from last season will face off in the Georgia Dome on Sunday night as the Atlanta Falcons host the New England Patriots. With so many stars on each side, fantasy owners have a lot at stake.
Although both teams finished with two of the best records in the NFL a season ago, neither team has looked dominant this year.
New England escaped with victories in each of its first two games against division rivals by a combined five points. Last week, quarterback Tom Brady got some help from rookie receivers as the Patriots dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wideouts Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson both had big games in Week 3 after struggling to start the season.
With two prolific offenses on display in prime time, it will be up to the defenses to make key stops.
Below are predictions for the biggest fantasy performers, with all point totals based on ESPN standard scoring, and the winner of the big clash.
|NE||QB||Tom Brady||285 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT|
|NE||RB||Stevan Ridley||15 carries-52 yards|
|NE||WR||Julian Edelman||9 catches-104 yards|
|ATL||QB||Matt Ryan||310 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT|
|ATL||RB||Jacquizz Rodgers||17 carries-64 yards|
|ATL||WR||Julio Jones||5 catches-112 yards|
|ATL||WR||Roddy White||2 catches-32 yards|
|ATL||TE||Tony Gonzalez||6 catches-67 yards, 2 TD|
Top Fantasy Stars
QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
When looking for a big performance this week, check out the quarterback who is dominant at home. In 39 career games at the Georgia Dome, Matt Ryan has 62 touchdowns to only 26 interceptions. By contrast, he has 36 interceptions in 42 road games. The quarterback takes much better care of the football at home.
Ryan's splits this season are interesting. In his lone home start, he threw for 374 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. The 28-year-old has averaged 267.5 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in two road starts this year.
His numbers in September are simply stunning throughout his career. Last year was easily his best start thanks to a big first month. He threw for 1,162 yards with 11 touchdowns to only two interceptions in September last season.
Ryan is off to a similar start this season. The Patriots have gone up against two rookie quarterbacks and a veteran (Josh Freeman) who was recently benched, so their sixth-ranked pass defense may not be completely accurate.
Look for Ryan to have a big game on Sunday night.
Projected fantasy numbers: 310 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 INT (24 points)
TE Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Tony Gonzalez is off to a quiet start, but it's just a matter of time before he has a breakout game. He will come through for his team when it it needs him on Sunday night.
In four games against AFC teams last season, Gonzalez had at least four receptions and 40 yards in each game. The future Hall of Famer also had a touchdown in three of the four games. He has yet to top 36 yards in a game this season.
The 37-year-old has averaged 56.1 yards per game throughout his career against the Patriots, so he should be able to get his yards in this one.
Projected fantasy numbers: 6 receptions, 67 yards, 2 TD (18 points)
Now that Brady has been able to get his young playmakers involved in the offense, it looks like the Patriots could get on a roll. However, this doesn't look like a favorable matchup for the Patriots.
New England went 1-3 against the NFC last season, and Brady threw eight touchdowns and four interceptions in those games. The Patriots went 6-2 on the road in 2012, so they know how to win in tough environments.
Who will win this clash?
On the other hand, the Falcons are incredibly tough to beat in the Georgia Dome. Since Ryan entered the league in 2008, he is 35-7 at home, including the postseason. He is also 16-5 against the AFC in his career, and the quarterback has never lost more than one game in a season against the other conference. Atlanta lost in Miami last week, so it would be a first for Ryan if he were to lose this week.
Atlanta hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2009. Too many trends are favoring the Falcons, and home-field advantage will be enough to push Atlanta over the top this week.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 28, New England Patriots 21
*All stats are courtesy of NFL.com
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